QUAL Button (Image Size and File Format)
Explanation: If exposure metering is active (if not, tap the shutter release button) the label QUAL applies and you can choose…
- …the image size together with the sub command dial at the front:
L for ~16 megapixels (4.928 x 3.264 Pixel)
M for ~9 megapixels (3.696 x 2.448 Pixel)
S for ~4 megapixels (2.464 x 1.632 Pixel)
- … which file format should be used together with the main command dial at the back:
RAW: only in the Nikon specific RAW format (suffix in file name .NEF) and highest resolution, the choice L / M / S disappears
FINE / NORMAL / BASIC: only in JPG format with different levels of compression (=different file sizes)
RAW + JPEG FINE / NORMAL / BASIC: in both RAW- and JPG-format.
Tips: I usually use image size M und compression BASIC. BASIC has almost no visible loss of quality but clearly smaller files than NORM / FINE and the resolution of 9 megapixels is good enough for really huge display on a monitor like a 30“ with 2560×1600 pixels (= ~4 megapixels) or prints of up to 8×12 or even 12×16 inches.
Note: This recommendation goes together with changing the default value in the shooting menu JPEG compression from „Size priority“ to „Optimal quality“.
If you feel uncomfortable with this recommendation because the naming „BASIC“ suggests inferior quality you can also choose NORM or FINE, there are no disadvantages apart from bigger files. But give it a try, the differences between BASIC and NORM / FINE are minimal.
Only when higher resolution matters for enlarging parts of the picture or really big prints I recommend image size L. But as before: If you don‘t mind bigger files and you would feel uncomfortable using less than the highest possible resolution – so what, leave L.
And only when really best quality matters I choose „RAW+BASIC“ for maximum potential in the image processing in the computer. The advantages of the RAW format are most visible if you adjust pictures heavily, especially when strongly lightening or darkening parts.